The second half of a highly-competitive 2017-18 Big Ten Conference season begins Wednesday with four weeks to go before the Big Ten Tournament tips off in Indianapolis. Three-time defending Big Ten champion Maryland leads Michigan by percentage points atop the conference standings, with Nebraska only a half-game back. The top four seeds for this year’s tournament will earn a double-bye into the quarterfinals, while seeds 5-10 will earn a single bye into the second round. All-session tournament tickets are currently on sale to the general public — see page 2 of the attached release for details.
With 23 points in last Saturday’s win over Michigan State, Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell set the Big Ten Conference career scoring record (men’s or women’s basketball) with 3,098 points, surpassing the previous record held by Minnesota’s Rachel Banham (3,093 from 2012-16) and moving into seventh place in NCAA Division I history. Mitchell already holds the NCAA all-division record for career three-pointers made (449), topping the record held by Laura Malernee of Division II West Liberty (441 from 2008-11).
Purdue shot 73.5 percent from the floor (36-of-49) on Sunday in its 88-73 win over Penn State at Mackey Arena. It was the highest field goal percentage ever recorded in a Big Ten Conference game, topping the previous mark of .689 (31-45) by Ohio State against Minnesota on Feb. 26, 2004, and it was the second-highest shooting percentage by a Big Ten school in any game, trailing only Northwestern’s .745 field goal percentage (35-47) against Wake Forest on Dec. 4, 1993. In addition, Purdue’s .735 mark is the ninth-highest in NCAA Division I history and best since Jan. 30, 2010, when Wyoming shot .755 from the floor against Air Force.
Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico collected her 400th career coaching victory on Sunday as the Wolverines won 80-59 at Northwestern. Arico, who has a 400-273 (.594) record in 22 seasons on the sidelines, including the past six at Michigan, is one of seven Big Ten coaches with 400 career wins.
With Sunday’s 70-61 win at Illinois, Wisconsin earned its first road win in Big Ten Conference play since March 1, 2015, when the Badgers posted a 62-56 victory at Penn State.
Michigan has posted the best record in program history through 23 games (19-4), surpassing its 18-5 start last year. In addition, the Wolverines are up to No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press poll, the second-highest ranking in program history behind a No. 12 placement on Dec. 24, 2001. Michigan has been ranked all 13 weeks this season, setting a school record for consecutive weeks in the AP poll, topping the previous mark of nine in 2001-02.
Nebraska has matched its best-ever start in Big Ten play, duplicating the 7-2 record it posted in its inaugural Big Ten season (2011-12). The Huskers have won their last nine games away from Lincoln (eight true road games, plus one neutral site), their longest winning streak away from home since 2009-10, when they won a school-record 14 in a row (12 road, two neutral).
The Big Ten ranks No. 3 in Tuesday’s NCAA conference RPI, while eight Big Ten schools are among the top 50 in the team RPI rankings, including four in the top 25. Ohio State leads the group at No. 6, joined by No. 19 Rutgers, No. 22 Maryland and No. 24 Michigan. Iowa is next at No. 30, followed by Michigan State at No. 41, Purdue at No. 46 and Nebraska at No. 47, with Minnesota on the doorstep at No. 52.
The Big Ten has seven schools appearing in the top 50 of Tuesday’s Sagarin ratings. The conference contingent includes No. 11 Maryland, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 18 Michigan, No. 32 Michigan State, No. 33 Rutgers, No. 34 Iowa and No. 36 Minnesota, with Nebraska knocking on the door at No. 52.
Seven Big Ten schools are ranked or receiving votes in the latest Associated Press or USA Todaypolls, led by No. 11 (AP)/No. 10 (USA Today) Maryland. Michigan is also ranked in both polls at No. 13/14, as is Ohio State at No. 18/17. Iowa and Nebraska are receiving votes in both polls this week, while Minnesota earned votes in the AP poll and Rutgers did likewise in the coaches’ survey. Ten of the 14 Big Ten schools have been ranked or receiving votes for at least one week this year.
The Big Ten has two of the nation’s most improved programs this season, with Rutgers owning 11 more wins than last year and Nebraska at nine wins more than its total in 2016-17. The Big Ten record for the most improvement from one season to the next is +14.5 by Iowa in 1995-96 (11-17 to 27-4).
Eleven of the 14 Big Ten programs rank among the top 50 in the nation in attendance, including six in the top 25, according to Tuesday’s NCAA statistics report. Michigan State leads the way at No. 8 nationally (6,042 fans per game), joined by No. 10 Purdue (5,937), No. 11 Ohio State (5,557), No. 13 Maryland (5,323), No. 16 Iowa (5,031) and No. 22 Nebraska (3,892). The other Big Ten schools currently among the top 50 in the nation in attendance are Wisconsin (26th - 3,522), Michigan (34th - 3,102), Indiana (37th - 3,052), Penn State (38th - 2,987) and Minnesota (40th - 2,968).
This week, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame are naming their top 10 candidates for the five position-based National Player of the Year awards. Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty and Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell are candidates for the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), while Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife is a candidate for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award (top shooting guard). The candidates for the other three honors will be announced later this week.
Indiana’s Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, and Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner are among 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to a senior basketball student who has made notable achievements in the award’s four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. The field of 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists in February, with the 2017-18 Senior CLASS Award recipient announced during this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Columbus. Iowa’s Samantha Logic is the most recent Big Ten women’s basketball student to earn the Senior CLASS Award, doing so in 2014-15.
Five students (three players, two graduate assistants) from Big Ten schools are among this year’s class for the 16th annual “So You Want To Be A Coach” program, to be held March 28-30 at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Illinois’ Jenn Dynis (graduate assistant), Michigan’s Jillian Dunston and Danielle Williams (graduate assistant), and Nebraska’s Jasmine Cincore and Emily Wood will participate in the workshop, which is designed to, among other objectives, increase the understanding and application of skills necessary to secure coaching position in women’s basketball and achieve success in those roles.
Four of the nation’s top 10 active NCAA Division I scoring leaders are Big Ten students — Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell (1st - 3,098), Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty (2nd - 2,558), Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife (6th - 2,079) and Indiana’s Tyra Buss (9th - 2,059), with Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner just outside the top 10 in 11th (1,970).
A total of 11 Big Ten students (representing seven conference schools) have scored 30 points in a game this season. The Big Ten’s 30-point scorers this year include: Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (four times), Maryland’s Kaila Charles (twice) and Eleanna Christinaki, Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty (twice), Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell (three times) and Carlie Wagner, Ohio State’s Stephanie Mavunga and Kelsey Mitchell (seven times), Penn State’s Jaida Travascio-Green and Teniya Page, and Purdue’s Andreona Keys.
The 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four will be played March 30 and April 1, right in the heart of Big Ten country in Columbus, Ohio, and co-hosted by Ohio State and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission at Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. This will mark the seventh time the Women’s Final Four is held within the Big Ten Conference footprint, with three visits to Indianapolis (2005, 2011, 2016), two others in the state of Ohio (Cincinnati-1997, Cleveland-2007) and the 1995 event in Minneapolis (the last time it was held in a city featuring a Big Ten institution).
Former Ohio State All-America guard and 1996 Big Ten Player of the Year Katie Smith (’96) is one of this year’s 10 finalists for induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Smith was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and recipient of the NCAA postgraduate scholarship, in addition to being a three-time all-conference pick and the No. 5 scorer in conference history. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced Feb. 12 and enshrined June 9 at the Hall in Knoxville, Tenn.
Next season, the Big Ten will return to an 18-game conference schedule, following approval by the Big Ten Administrators Council in October. Under the new format, schools will play five opponents twice and eight teams once (four home, four away) each season. The model will also emphasize in-state rivalries and competition between regional opponents. Big Ten women’s basketball programs played 18 regular-season conference games for the first 12 seasons of Big Ten play (1982-83 through 1993-94) and returned to that format from 2007-08 to 2009-10 and again in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
For the fourth consecutive year, every Big Ten women’s basketball conference game, including 112 regular-season and 13 tournament games, will be produced and distributed by BTN, BTN Plus or an ESPN network.
Big Ten programs produced 61 Academic All-Big Ten selections in 2016-17, the 10th consecutive season at least 45 women’s basketball students received the award. That list includes returning Academic All-Americans Amanda Cahill of Indiana and Carlie Wagner of Minnesota, plus Academic All-District honoree Kristen Confroy of Maryland.